Tag Archives: visual poetry

Translation: Matsuo Basho

To start, here is the original text of one of the most famous haiku ever written:

古池
蛙飛び込む
水の音

furuike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

— Matsuo Basho

(More background on and other poems by Matsuo Basho.)

Next, five of many ‘straightforward’ translations:

A lonely pond in age-old stillness sleeps…
Apart, unstirred by sound or motion…till
Suddenly into it a lithe frog leaps.

Pond, there, still and old!
A frog has jumped from the shore.
The splash can be heard.

Ah! The ancient pond
As a frog takes the plunge
Sound of the water

The old pond, yes, and
A frog-jumping-in-the-
Water’s noise!

old pond……
a frog leaps in
water’s sound

old pond
frog leaping
splash

This poem also drew the more experimental efforts of bpNichol:

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The Queerness of It All

frQg
pQnd
plQp

———

Basho Update
as read in a newspaper

Frog Pond turns into
a gold mine

———

(“His last variation, apparently never published…the circle is the pond, and the tail is the frog’s diving board.”)

———

Following in bpNichol’s footsteps, here are some other experimental translations of this haiku.

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So what do you like best? The traditional or the experimental? The textual or the visual? What’s the most faithful translation? How much should ‘faithfulness’ matter when translating poetry?

5 Poems by bpNichol



Commentary: “The poem implies that love evolves if you simultaneously go back to and repeate its sources and add something unique to them, not expecting completion, but leaving it implied. It suggests, lives on, and negates evil. Its axis is the letter e, exerting its transforming influence on another vowel while remaining otherwise unobtrusive in the single syllable ‘love’; but dominating the two syllable word ‘evol,’ creating a scream that tears the poem in half.” -Karl Young, “The Visual Poetry of bpNichol; a Brief Sketch”

Make sure to also check out bpNichol’s incredible collection First Screening: Computer Poems:

More background, and other poems: